The Order: a book review by Rabbi Jeffrey Cohen

August 7, 2020 by Rabbi Jeffrey Cohen
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This is Dan Silva’s twenty-third novel and as usual features as its chief protagonist is Gabriel Allon who is not only head of Israel’s secret service, the Mossad, but also an art restorer.

Like most of Silva’s novel, there is an intersection of his two roles but unusually it does not require him to restore a major art piece. Instead, he is called, while on vacation in Venice and with his in-laws, to the Vatican where he has previously restored one of its major pieces.

The narrative has a Pope called Pius VII and as such it ignores the Papacy of both Francis and Benedict XVI and it is as if neither had occupied the Throne of Peter. Actually, Pius VII had appeared in at least three other Silva’s novels. Pius dies suddenly and at first it is though natural due to a heart attack although his personal private secretary has strong doubts.

The story involves a document which is rumoured to be a long-suppressed gospel, and in the story, there seems that it could be one of a number stored in a section of the Vatican Library in a section that is closed except for the pope himself.

There is also a shadowy Catholic society known as the Order of St. Helena. Helena was the mother of Constantine who visited Jerusalem and the Holy Land and many discoveries of holy relics are attributed to her. Some who read The Order would, in all likelihood equate the Order of St. Helena to Opus Dei. That perception is reinforced with The Order having strong links to the European Far Right. Part of that story reminds the reader that it was the Far Right who enabled former Nazis after WWII to escape Europe to South America.

Like all good ‘who done it?” novels there are a number of twists and turns. First, the Pope’s private secretary Archbishop Luigi Donati disappears every Thursday night to have dinner with a society matron with whom he had a relationship when he was questioning his calling. Donati returns to find his mentor dead but also discovers two things are missing. The first was on the Pope’s desk as he left for dinner and this was a handwritten letter, and Donati is unsure if it had been completed, addressed to Allon. The second was the Swiss Guard who was outside the Pope’s personal apartment.

Following the twists and turns there ends up being two bodies, a search for not only the missing letter but also the supposed found Gospel. How the events affect Donati’s life are somewhat predictable as is the missing gospel, even if its source only is revealed in the last few pages.

The book also has contemporary elements including the current pandemic. He notes in the acknowledgements that he had hoped to finish the novel while resident in Rome but needed to leave Italy before his planned departure because “coronavirus ravaged Italy”. In the early part of the novel, he does mention the pandemic which affects all of us and thus the reader feels a little more sense of the reality of our time as one reads it.

This book is an easy read. If you like his novels as did the woman at the checkout when I obtained my copy and she clearly liked each and every one of Silva’s novels, you too will enjoy this one.

Book Review-The Order

Author: Daniel Silva

Published by Harper Collins, 2020

Rabbi Jeffrey Cohen is a clinical researcher. He has been Associate Professor in Notre Dame’s School of Medicine; Visiting Senior Research Fellow at UNSW Medicine; CEO of the Sydney Jewish Museum; and Director of Pastoral Resources, Missouri’s Department of Mental Health.

Comments

One Response to “The Order: a book review by Rabbi Jeffrey Cohen”
  1. Frances Prince says:

    In my opinion, this is not a book review. This is a truncated re-telling of the plot. You reveal much too much of the storyline, including major ‘spoilers’.

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